National Stationery Show 2016

We recently exhibited at the National Stationery Show in our first solo booth! (You can read the recap of our first NSS experience in 2014 here.)

We were inspired by Lucky Horse Press to try soft walls. We designed and built a simple, easily transportable booth that we can reuse for future trade shows. Since we're always going to be a cross-country plane ride from New York, we wanted to avoid shipping a crate back and forth if at all possible. We are really happy with how our booth turned out! Here's what we did.

Our friend Eli is a talented metalworker and he fabricated a beautiful aluminum frame for us. All of the pieces were 5ft long or shorter and fit into an army style duffel bag that we could check on the plane. The pieces fit together easily and are tightened into place with an allen wrench. All together, the frame poles weigh around 70lbs. We checked the connectors (another 15lbs) in another bag with our clothes to keep the weight low.

We purchased canvas drop cloths from Home Depot for the booth walls. I really wanted to use sail cloth (nautical!), but it turns out that sail cloth is super expensive. Drop cloths are huge and reasonably priced. One of the walls got a coat of paint for contrast underneath our wood logo sign. We sent the walls out to Turning Star for professional fire proofing. I hemmed the panels on my sewing machine at home. 

We used a simple grommet kit to apply grommets to the walls. I wanted to buy an expensive grommet press, but it actually didn't take all that long to do the grommets by hand. It's kind of fun and was a good pre-NSS stress reliever. 

We packed up our 6 checked bags, 2 carry ons, 2 backpacks, 1 car seat, 1 stroller, and 1 toddler and headed to the airport! Getting the baggage moved around was a giant pain, but it saved us a bunch of money on shipping a crate, and then we didn't have to wait for our crate to be returned at the end of the show. And also we don't have to store a crate. (Apparently I have a crate phobia.)

When you get to the show, this is what the booth looks like. Not so cute! We took two days for set-up, but we were out of the Javits Center by dinner time each night. We had a hotel very close by, which allowed us to carry suitcases back and forth as we needed them. While I'd like to have spent less on the hotel, the close proximity was really really nice.

We started out by hanging the cloth panels on the frame with zip ties very loosely, and then we tightened them evenly in all directions to get the panels as taut as we could. The 2 short sides were very smooth - the long side was a little more wavy. I kept reminding myself: "We're going for a natural, nautical look. It's supposed to be fabric." The perfectionist in me likes to argue, but our brand isn't polished perfection. It's honesty and groundedness - simplicity, natural elements and masculine energy. In my opinion, the booth fit our brand well. (Although it's easy to play the comparison game when you're looking down the aisle and other booths are fancier than the house you live in.)

Our beautiful logo sign was made by Bill Sayer - PPointCreates on Etsy. We hung the sign (and all the cards) with adhesive velcro dots from Uline. For the small letters and the line, we did velcro dot surgery and cut them down to smaller pieces. The sign stayed on the wall for the whole show. (Hooray!) The cards were a little more finicky. We used a handy box of straight pins to reinforce the cards that fell down. That's one of the benefits of fabric walls!

We splurged on furniture and rented some fun vintage pieces from Patina. It was really nice to round off the nautical theme with the furniture pieces, and they were super handy to have. Sitting and storage are important! We used FJÄLLA boxes from IKEA to hide all of our extra booth stuff. Our flooring was navy blue carpet tiles from Flor. Our lighting was simple clip lamps from Home Depot that we painted gold. We picked super high lumen LED lightbulbs that kept the booth bright without being hot.

We wanted a booth that was practical to transport, fit our brand, and didn't break the bank. All of the elements for the booth definitely added up in price, but nearly everything can be reused again for future shows. As much time and planning as the booth takes, in the end it's all about the product. We released 20+ new cards and a series of A to Z Signal Flag postcards that won a Best New Product award in the Eco Chic category!

It's a HUGE honor to win an award like this, and we are so grateful. It can be hard to quantify the benefits of doing a major trade show with the time spent planning, financial investment, travel time and costs, etc. Getting recognition like this certainly makes it easier to see the fruit of all that hard work. (I'm still staring at the award on my desk like I don't really believe it happened.)

We're still tired from the trip, but we're also still glowing a little bit. I LOVE meeting our buyers face to face - hearing their stories, sharing my inspiration for each product, seeing what they order and getting to hear why. It's all exciting and inspiring and it gives me new fuel for the fire. Thanks for the memories, New York! Until next time...